Is Automation a Threat to Traditional Roofers?
New technologies are constantly changing the way we work, from smartphones and computers making it easier to connect and plan to cordless tools helping to improve your working efficiency. The latest tech, however, to make waves is in the automation market.
In 2020, a global survey conducted by McKinsey revealed that 31% of companies have at least one facet of their business automated. An increase of 3% from the year prior, and now we are seeing the effects of this on the roofing market.
How Is the Roofing Industry Being Automated
Whilst the bread and butter work of roofers has remained unchanged for decades, the time extensive preparation has been eating away at precious time. This leads to bigger bills for customers and less time for roofers to get more jobs done.
The big solution for this growing problem is, as seems to be a growing case for several sectors, drones. While once they were seen as a gimmick or something you might get for your kid at Christmas, modern drones possess a remarkable amount of uses.
When it comes to roofing, they can be used to analyse roofs far quicker and in far greater detail than human eyes. Combine this with analytics software and artificial intelligence, and you’ll find that these drones can provide actionable data far quicker than manual methods. This could include anything from finding the source of a leak to identifying a damaged piece of timber.
Not only this, but the use of drones significantly mitigates the safety risks naturally involved in roofing, helping to keep accidents to a minimum.
How Do Drones Help Roofing Contractors?
Drones can be operated safely from the ground, by a single person. It can be used to fly over the roof in questions capturing both photos and videos. This will help identify any surface-level problems but what about what’s happening underneath the tiles?
Well, in many cases, drones are designed specifically for roofing applications and also for capturing thermal images. This will help isolate specific defects – saving hours of searching and, in the worst case, having to replace large amounts of PIR boards or mineral wool.
These images can be transferred to a separate screen on the ground, in real-time, where, with the right tools, operators can generate reports to pass on to both roofers and homeowners.
Think of it as the computer your mechanic plugs into your car. This software will isolate all of the problems your roof may (or may not) have in a fraction of the time a manual inspection would take. Roofers can take this information and determine the best course of action for repairs, helping them to make jobs quicker and their customers by being far more cost-efficient than an eyeball estimate.
When it comes to more commercial environments, these reports can often even be shared from the same tool with key personnel and stakeholders. This helps ensure everyone on the project is on the same page and limits the back and forth that normally torments projects of this nature.
Beyond simply telling you what the problem is, drones recording accurate data can also help make precision measurements of the roof's lengths, area, volume and slope so the correct materials can be ordered without the extensive job of measuring everything by hand.
Some tools, including BlueVu, also help roofers create 3D models of buildings. This not only aids in demonstrating the work that needs to be done to the customer but also allows the roofer to get a clear picture of the goal they are working with. For new builds, when integrated with googles earth, you could even see what the new building would look like when built next to its surroundings.
What Other Roofing Automation Can Be Expected?
Whilst nowhere near becoming mainstream, other automation that is being tested for the roofing market includes (as you may have guessed) robots. Now, these aren’t fully autonomous 'climb up the ladder' that can do the work for your robots, but rather closer to a
Rube Goldberg machine that, once set up, will install shingles.
This idea came from the minds over at Renovate Robotics, who early this year, announced a 2.5 million dollar pre-seed to develop the technology. Whilst designed to answer the problems of the American roofing markets, the issues tackled by these robots might sound similar.
They address the growing concern of labour shortages by dramatically reducing the time it takes to install a new roof. They make working in colder climates far safer and more approachable – helping roofers tackle the increasing number of problems caused by extreme weather. Finally, specifically designed to install solar shingles, they are designed to future-proof homes.
Of course, this is all a moot point until (and if) they come to market. Even then, a great deal of work would have to be done to adapt the machines to make them suitable for our roofs and roofing needs. Even so, this could well be what the future of roofing will start to look like in the next few decades.
Does Automation Threaten Roofers?
Automations are very rarely designed to put people out of work. And this is very much the case with drones. Whilst they are considered automation tech, they cannot be used without an operator. Does this mean that roofers will have them learn new skills? Absolutely, that’s inevitable.
However, those that do will be a step ahead of their completion. Not only able to complete jobs of higher quality (thanks to more accurate data) but also to a quicker timeline. This means more work can be done in a shorter amount of time which in turn means that running a roofing business will be much more cost-effective. Better for roofers, and better for homeowners.
As for the robots that install shingles, the case is much the same. They will still need to be operated and maintained. More to the point whatever work they are used to complete will need to be inspected and changes made where appropriate.
All in all, automation will make roofers easier, work to tackle labour shortages and help keep costs down. Everything we want and need.
In need of a hand for your next roofing project? Don’t hessite to get in touch with our award-winning customer service team. We’ll help advise you on picking on the best materials for your roof.